Help Tools/ODA/On-line Docs/Usability/Quality

Subject: Help Tools/ODA/On-line Docs/Usability/Quality
From: Fred Wersan <wersan -at- ZEUS -dot- MA30 -dot- BULL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1993 11:37:31 EDT

I've just reviewed the archive for Sept. and have responses to several items
that didn't get covered.
1. Most of the Windows Help tools such as Robo-Help and Doc-to-Help have been
reviewed in the various PC mags (PC Magazine, PC World, PC/Computing) over the
past 3-4 months.

2. The Open Document Architecture is and ISO standard. It is like SGML in its
intentions. It has an interchange format called Open Document Interchange
Format. The best source of info would be ISO. ODA will probably become increas-
ingly important for documents sold in the European market. We have a product
that uses it to convert documents between different word processing packages.
I don't know how it actually works.

3. I think the distinction people tried to make between on-line docs and elec-
tronic docs is artificial. They are part of a continuum. And the answer to the
original poster is that the amount of work required depends on the platform it
will be read on and how good a job you want to do. For example, our departmental
formatting standards are on-line. They are FrameMaker documents. Originally I
just put them in a directory and told people where they were. Then I started
implementing hypertext links and hooked them up through the FrameMaker Help
button (we are on a Sun). Over time the complexity has expanded, but I never
made any changes to the basic document size because on our screens we can see
an entire 8.5 x 11 page. If I was designing this for 14" PC screens my approach
would have been entirely different. (I could go on and on, but Horton's book is
a good general reference on the subject.)

4. When I signed up for the STC Usability PIC I found myself a member of the
Usability Professionals Association. To join, contact:
Usability Professionals Association
Attn: Derek Hoiem
Microsoft Corp.
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, Wash. 95052-6399

5. Our facility is ISO 9000 compliant. That means we produce quality products.
We inspect our documents. This provides metrics, but no one has figured out
what they mean or what to do with them yet. They are used a bit more usefully
by the software folks.
Fred Wersan
Bull HN Informations Systems
300 Concord Rd.
Billerica, Mass. 01821
f -dot- wersan -at- bull -dot- com

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